Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clementine and Hess

   The sky was clear and warm and we sat around at Clemetine's parent's house all evening. We had been drinking a few beers and Hess had played guitar the whole time (Hess being a very good guitar player, one of these self taught near-prodigies who can improvise off any piece, loop it gradually into another piece then another, and yet who found sheet music to be utterly abhorrent). We had spent the evening around a small fire talking. We three had never been exceptionally close friends: we had been brought together in high school (along with a few other people to varying degrees in one of those nebulous and shifting friend groups) by a certain sort of weirdness. I won't go so far as to say we were outcasts, necessarily, but had all felt bored or unsettled perhaps by what we considered the mainstream. We had mostly just gotten drunk together (that ranging, freeing high school drunk) then ended up going our separate ways after school, meeting once or twice a year after to drink again and tell stories.
   Clementine's dad had come home late with a truck load of grapes, had gone east over the pass real early in the morning to the vineyards in the desert. It was this thing he did. A hobby; making wine. A real nice guy, he spent most of his time as a forest ranger on the Olympic peninsula. Months at a time out in the rainforest, digging and spotting. I always enjoyed talking to him. We had gathered at his home because the next day Clementine would be heading off to California, then from there to Mexico. She had been living down on the beach most winters making a little money working in a circus, entertaining tourists, living a glorious young ex-pat's life. She would tell us stories that night of her time in Mexico, none of which I would remember.
   It got colder and we put out the fire, dragged the chairs inside. Checking the time it turned out to be later than we had thought and I said I was leaving. I hugged Clementine. Hess said he would grab his bike and walk me part of the way. Hess came from a very wealthy family and seemed to at once to revel in and reject the embarrassment of familial wealth. After we graduated Hess had lived in his parent's basement for a number of years, the dungeon of an arcing, khaki, three story place right there on the lake. He turned his room (and the rooms around it) into a smoke filled nest of ever-humming amplifiers and exotic drums; bizarre paintings and sculptures he made while on binges of grey-market research chemicals. For some time he had abused drugs in a curious cycle: for a year he regularly went through ounces of expensive marijuana in the course of a week. Constantly stoned he made music: ten minute long winding tracks, sometimes just one note played over and over and over again, drum beats fed through daisy chained effects pedals until they stuttered and shifted more to the will of stochastic electric whims than to his own desires. When he stopped smoking (citing the numbing effects and decreased productivity of weed) he began drinking everyday, heavily, and to the point of stumbling incoherence. At one point he was taking large biweekly doses of psilocybin, sitting in empty parks on grey January days talking to trees. This one continued with great regularity for sometime until, driving home one day, he rear-ended a woman at an intersection. When she came out to get his information 'something' (and it isn't entirely clear what) happened. He said he hugged her but then one doesn't often have the cops called on them for hugging a person, and while resisting arrest he was tazed. Hess spent the comedown of his trip in solitary confinement and always recounts those hours as something of a spiritual experience.
    As Hess and I were walking we passed our old high school, a dark dead whale in its summer dormancy. I said,
      "I had this dream that everyone we went to school with had to come back and we were, like, in high school again. Except everyone was older and kind of jaded. We were learning American History and just no one was into it." I told Hess "Made me wonder if, even though we are older now, if they brought us all together, that shitty high school dynamic would return in spite of everything we had learned. Like if that was ingrained in us or what." Hess was staring ahead and making long slow strokes on his bike to stay with my pace. Each push he let the bike angle out to the side, ambling and lethargic, and this gave him the appearance of an adolescent to me, though in no negative way. He was thinking perhaps, then, after a few beats, he turned to me and said,
     "Yeah but...there would still be shootings and stuff. Like, at music festivals. Like at Sasquatch. Get people together and, you know, bad things will always happen."
     I was confused by this, so I said
    "Everyone would have mellowed out a bit, less egos and stuff. It might be fun you know." Hess didn't say anything for a while and it became clear to me that Hess probably wasn't listening, but it seemed like he was completely insane. Suddenly I got an urge to push him off his bike, pin him to the ground and scream
What you just said makes no sense at all! It has nothing at all to do with what i said! right at his face
It reminded me of that moment in many horror movies, like the space movies where the evil alien has the power to take over a person's mind, where two characters are alone and one realizes his buddy has been taken over. As if Hess wan't Hess anymore, that this person I thought I knew for so long was an automaton.
     But this wan't the case.
He was just a guy.
Just my friend.
     We came to a 'T' in the road where Hess would turn left and I right. I told Hess it was good to see him again, that we should meet up soon. Hess just said
     "Bye" without looking at me and, with a few powerful strokes, was already down the street.

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